Why the Great Northern Brewers Club is the Best Club!

Alaskans love beer, and we have some pretty great ales, lagers and barley-wine here in the Greatland!  Alaska Beer Week is this week, culminating in the Alaska Craft Brew & Barley Wine Festival on Friday and Saturday. I am lucky enough to get to vend my beer art at this event, and I hope to see you there. You probably already know that during Alaska Beer Week, Alaska hosts beer events at restaurants, bars and brewery tasting rooms. What you probably didn’t know is that the best beer event is hosted at 49th State Brewing by the Great Northern Brewers Club.

The GNBC is a homebrew club in Anchorage Alaska, and was founded in 1980.  It is hard to believe this club is as old as I am! The GNBC mission statement is: to educate people about beer, beer tasting, beer judging, and brewing techniques based on shared knowledge and experience. To engage in enjoyable social activities focused on home-brewing as a common foundation. To promote the hobby and enjoyment of home-brewing. To promote the responsible use of alcoholic beverages.  

The best part about the club is the January monthly meeting during Alaska Beer Week, which is also known as the “Industry Meeting.”  This meeting is a mini beerfest in itself, held at the theater at 49th State Brewing.  A keynote speaker is invited to speak, and I’ve listened to some great brewers from famous commercial breweries in the past including: Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Greg Koch (Stone Brewing), Jeff Lebesch & Kim Jordan (New Belgium Brewing), Geoff Larson (Alaskan Brewing), Jerry Vietz (Unibroue), John Maier (Rogue Ales), and many others.  There are a lot of complimentary commercial and home-brewed samples, enough that you should arrange transport other than driving yourself, since you will not be legal to drive after this event.  There’s also a great spread of food from the kitchen at 49th State Brewing.  Not to mention, a great amount of door prizes that are available if you donate to the club for drawing tickets.  Overall, I like this event more than the beer festival itself, because you get to find out why people are wearing chicken necklaces at the beer festival (Phil the chicken guy is almost always in attendance), and you will get to meet the brewers from around the State if you are a social person. 

There are a number of reasons to join this club, especially if you love making and drinking beer, mead, cider and other fermented alcoholic beverages. First, you get 10% off at La Bodega, and 10% off at ingredients at Arctic Brewing Supply. Then there’s the December meeting, which is a holiday party that is almost as good as the January meeting. There is a campout in the summer with free camping spots at an amazing campground (it changes yearly). The reasons keep going. You can sign up to become a certified BJCP judge (Beer Judge Certification Program), and participate in the numerous home-brew contests throughout the year. And lastly, this is a great group of people that like to have fun and be social! It was tough through the pandemic, but we survived by drinking socially over Zoom, although it wasn’t the same!  We are back, baby! Get your membership and come on down to hang out at 49th State with one of the funnest clubs in Alaska! 

Cheers to beers and the GNBC! 

Here are some photos from previous January industry meetings: Jerry Vietz from Unibroue with Maria, beard twinsies with John Maier from Rogue Ales, and a photo of the meeting hall.

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Drinking on the Southside

Yesterday was a great day to go to the south-side of town to grab a beer at Midnight Sun Brewing and  Turnagain Brewing. My art show is up at MSBC for the month of January, and yesterday the brewery busted out dusty bottles of Sloth Belgian-style Imperial Stout from 2017! For those in the know, Sloth is one of the best beers MSBC has ever made. A Russian imperial stout that was originally brewed as part of the Seven Deadly Sins series in 2007. The brewery hasn’t brewed it since 2017! Sloth has a rating of 95 on Beer Advocate and is rated as the 90th best Russian Imperial Stout in the United States!  It is big, bold, dark, black, and has a nice Belgian yeast note to it. If there is any left on draft today, I would get on down there and get a glass.  If not, you can always find something noteworthy from the big offerings from MSBC.  I made this painting of Sloth in 2016 and it immediately sold. Limited edition prints are available at my Etsy shop. If you prefer an original oil painting, rather than a print, I can paint a custom one for you.

A 6oz pour of Sloth Belgian-style Imperial Stout

Meanwhile, right down the street, an amazing sour beer called Solera Eclipse was released today at Turnagain Brewing!  Since Maria and I are in the Mug Club at Turnagain, we had the opportunity to stop by to get first dibs on this amazing beer yesterday.  It is a pineapple and blueberry sour that originally was brewed in summer 2021 and was released in early November 2021.  Every year there is a contest called the Turnagain Tartside Challenge, and Anchorage home-brewers come by Turnagain Brewing to get a gallon of mostly fermented sour wort from the Solera. The idea is to flavor, finish, and package the wort to make a delicious beer. In 2021 I was the winner of this contest with the concept behind Solera Eclipse. Ted Rosenzweig (owner and brewer at Turnagain Brewing) and I conferred, and I designed a label, and Ted packaged the beer for individual bottle sales. It has to be one of the tastiest sour beers I have ever had, and today it is released again. At $7 for a 12oz pour or $7 for 12oz bottles to go, it is a good deal. My original recipe called for a whole pineapple and 1lb of blueberries per gallon!  Little to say, the fruit in this beer is very expensive, and I am unsure how much profit can be made when using so much fruit here in Alaska! I have included a picture of Ted stealing a sample from the barrel on Halloween in 2021.  I wanted to show off my original label and bottle design, because the packaging is different this year.  The pineapple brings the flavor, and the blueberries bring some aroma, and a great color!  

Anchorage is a great beer drinking town and I hope you brave the cold to get out to one of our lovely brewery destinations to revere our beer! Cheers to beers brewed in the North! 

Check out the Paintings my Customers Commissioned for Christmas, 2022

It’s that time of year when I show you all the paintings my customers commissioned during the holiday season. This is definitely the busiest time for me in the studio, as people tend to order more custom paintings in time for Christmas, but each year I manage to complete every single one on time! That’s not an easy feat, considering that oil paint takes longer to dry than acrylic. Thank you to all who commissioned paintings this year, and in the past! It’s always great to work with you on these projects, as you share your personal stories with the artist, and trust me to capture those special moments in timeless paintings. So, without further ado, here are the 11 commissions I painted in the last couple months. I provided links in the captions for the ones that are available as prints at our Etsy shop.

20″x16″, oil on canvas. Prints available at our Etsy shop.
30″ x 24″, oil on canvas. Custom silhouette portraits available at our Etsy shop.
8″ x 10″, oil on panel
11″ x 14″, oil on panel
24″ x 12″, oil on panel
14″ x 11″, oil on panel. Prints are available at our Etsy shop.
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
10″ x 8″, oil on panel
8″ x 10″, oil on panel

Brewing Beer with Alaskan Ingredients

Brewing beer with Alaskan ingredients

I am a home-brewer, and I live in Alaska. The majority of beer ingredients are not found in Alaska. Although barley does grow in Alaska, no one malts it here on a large commercial scale. Hops do not really grow well in Alaska, they don’t seem to flower before they wilt, due to our extreme daylight in summer and cold fall season. Yeast is totally available in Alaska.  I have harvested yeast in my backyard successfully. It is a wild ingredient and the outcome can vary wildly. We have a lot of water in Alaska, and that is probably the most important ingredient in beer. You can substitute all kinds of other things, but if you don’t have water, you can’t make beer. We have plentiful soft water in Alaska, that is similar to the water found in the southern part of Germany. It is easy to work with, and can be manipulated to produce water chemistry similar to anywhere in the world. This is probably why beer from Alaska is some of the best to be found anywhere. 

The most classic Alaskan ingredient is spruce tips — you can find this in commercial examples like Alaskan Winter Ale, and Sprucesplosion by 49th State Brewing.  Spruce tips have been used since Captain Cook sailed to Alaska in 1778. His crew made malt extract beer and used spruce tips as a flavoring and enriching ingredient. Spruce tips are high in vitamin C, so the beer prevented Cook’s crew from getting scurvy.  Another interesting ingredient used by Alaskan commercial breweries is rhubarb.  Turnagain Brewing’s, Rhu Framb, and Girdwood Brewing’s, Rhu Hefner, are both excellent examples. There are a lot of commercial blueberry beers made in Alaska: Turnagain uses it frequently, Glacier BrewHouse makes a blueberry IPA, and Matanuska Brewing makes a blueberry beer. My favorite blueberry beer is Anchorage Brewing’s Experiment, a sour blueberry beer. Raspberry is often used to make a delicious fruity beer, not just in Alaska, but it has traditionally been used in Belgium to make Framboise.  Glacier Brewhouse makes a raspberry wheat, and Turnagain makes a beer called Framb Was.  Basically, you can put anything you want into a beer to create unique and interesting flavors. 

This year I made a 10 gallon batch of pale ale, around 5.5% ABV, and pretty basic. It is lightly hopped with Mosaic and Citrus hops, and the base recipe is a fairly sweet ale. I took five gallons and dry-hopped it with Azacca hops and put it on draft in my kegerator. The other five gallons I racked into five one-gallon jugs, and then flavored each one differently.  I put blueberries in one, lingonberries in another, gooseberries in a third, raspberry in the fourth, and to the last one I added a lot of dried yarrow flowers. I pureed all the fruit, which was frozen first, with an immersion blender.  I let them age another week before I bottled all five batches.  I’m waiting two weeks to try them, and I hope they are as delicious as the beers I brewed last year. Maybe next year I will use wild Alaskan yeast, but this year I used American ale yeast, which is a go-to in our home-brewery.

Cheers to Alaska! Cheers to Alaskan ingredients! Cheers to Alaskan beers!

Sales Channels for Selling Art: Pop-Ups, Art Shows, Galleries, and Online

December is here, and it is now officially crunch time to get your holiday shopping completed.  As an artist, I have mixed feelings about the holiday season.  On one side I make more money at this time of year than any other time. On the other side, I have to work almost every weekend at in-person vending events, such as pop-ups.  We sell art primarily through these channels: in person at pop-ups/craft fairs, at galleries, art shows at venues around town, and online.

Vending in person at pop-ups and craft fairs is an interesting opportunity for both the buyer and artist. I get to meet my clients, and can help them find the art they are looking for, or let them know about art pieces I may not have brought with me, but are available on my Etsy shop. In which case, they can pick up the artwork when it is ready a few days later at the studio (if you are lucky, you might get invited in for a home-brew ;). It is a lot of work setting up and taking down the booth, and has to be calculated in to our work day. Most of the time, there is no fee for us to sell at pop-up events, except credit card processing fees, and the cost of a couple beers, if the event is at a brewery. Sometimes breweries waive my tab, which always makes me very happy! Craft fairs charge a few hundred dollars for a booth. By the way, I’ll be selling my art at a pop-up at Anchorage Brewing Co. along with several other local makers on Saturday, December 3, starting at 2pm.

Selling my art at a pop-up at Anchorage Brewing Co.

Galleries are a way to work with sales people and meet a larger audience.  However, galleries take 40% – 50% commission, which makes sense, since they have brick-and-mortar overhead.  After dropping off art to a gallery, the artist doesn’t have to do any work except keep track of what the gallery has and what they will need when something sells.  Unfortunately, the gallery only has a certain amount of space, so artists are limited to sell only what the gallery is willing to put on its walls. Galleries have sales people that work to sell the art. This is a major benefit, especially since artists are not always good at selling their own art. I’m very happy to have my art at Dos Manos Gallery!

My art at Dos Manos Gallery

Art shows at venues like breweries, restaurants, and coffee shops are another way for an artist to reach an audience. This is a bit more than a pop-up, but less than complete gallery representation. It is super fun as an artist to have a reception at your art show. Everyone is there to see the artwork, and that is really rewarding. The artist often has to handle all the sales, if the venue doesn’t want to process art sales, which is a hurdle for the buyer, and leads to fewer sales.  Art shows last about a month, so you are committed to that venue for a longer bit of time than a pop-up.  Most art show venues don’t care if they sell anything, or not, so you often don’t get a sales person, like yourself at a pop-up, or an employee of a gallery. Sometimes nothing sells at all at an art show venue. Most of the time people go to the venue for the real reason it exists: food at a restaurant, or a haircut at a stylist, or beer at a brewery.  Or they go to see your artwork. Most likely, if they are already on an artist’s mailing list, they already have artwork from the artist and may be there to support the artist personally and not to purchase art.  My next art show will be at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. in January.

At my art show at Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

Online selling is a good way to sell art.  It is also very challenging, but if done correctly, can be quite profitable. You can sell direct from your website, this requires expensive web hosting, and secure checkout. SEO is a problem with that.  There are a few other online venues: Etsy is one of the best, but there is also Fine Art America, iCanvas, Redbubble, and Deviantart. The listings are time consuming and require a keen eye for detail.  Art purchasers don’t like to see typos in a listing — it makes them feel that the artist is careless. There is often a lot of communication before a sale is made, and if it isn’t handled correctly, the sale is lost. It is tedious to manage an online site for art sales.  Some of these websites require the artist to make and mail all the art, like Etsy.  Other sites, like RedBubble, or Fine Art America print all the merchandise, and mail it. But these sites take a much bigger cut for those services.  Buying art online is really easy, you can do it from your phone, however, it is hard to tell what you will receive. This is fine when ordering a t-shirt from Redbubble, but a bit disconcerting to the purchaser when buying expensive originals, or fragile pieces. We just sold an original painting to a client in France, and I was really proud of the Real Art Is Better team, that my artwork was being shipped all the way to the cultural center of Europe.  We’re offering a 20% discount, and free domestic shipping right now at our Etsy shop for a limited time.

We use all of these methods to sell art. And I find pop-ups to be the most work, but also the most profitable, especially when I am at a brewery. Not so much when I am vending at a craft fair, because there’s more competition from other vendors, and beer art is not everyone’s cup of tea. Galleries are good because they get the word out to art collectors, and help with establishing your brand, and the gallery does all the work.  Art shows are fun, especially at the reception when the artist is honored, but most often you only sell a small percentage of what has been hung, and it is a lot of work moving artwork around and taking it back down. Online is a lot of setup and a ton of work when it comes to packing and mailing, or requires faith in the offsite production of reproduced items.  We find that all these methods are working to keep our business running. All have their pros and cons. It’s a matter of getting it all out there, whatever the method.              

Most Memorable and True Advice

This octopus is making so many mistakes, but he’s out there trying his best!

Many people have asked me whether I went to art school.  Yes, I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in art from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  I think UAA is a pretty decent State university.  I have studied at two others, and I think it was overall the best. It definitely had the best art building, and the other classes I took were better than the ones at Western Oregon University, and Western State College of Colorado, as well.  Maria and I live in a neighborhood called College Village, and it is only about a mile to the UAA campus, and only a mile and half to the art building. I wish I lived here when I was attending UAA — it would have been more convenient than the 4 miles it was to my Fairview condo.  I studied at WSC for one year, and then three years at WOU.  Neither are super well known for their academic standards, but I am not a super academic person, so it comes as no surprise that after four years I didn’t graduate.  It wasn’t until I worked as an artist for a couple years that I decided to go to UAA and finish my degree. 

Along my path through the academic system I picked up a little bit of wisdom and advice from mentors, some applicable to life, and some applicable directly to production of art.  A wise friend once casually imparted some of the most valuable advice — it’s all about showing up!  If you aren’t there, you won’t gain anything. I should have taken that one to heart at WOU when missing a few classes ended up in catastrophic failure. I was getting an A in history class and decided I didn’t have to attend the last few classes before the final.  The date to the final was changed, and I didn’t hear about it, because I wasn’t there.  It was worth 50% of the grade. I failed the class and my GPA dropped too low to continue with my scholarship. It was not good. You have to show up!  I can’t even count the number of times I have gotten a commission, or sold art, or booked an art show, just because I had shown up to an event.

At WOU, I took an art and business class. It was required to graduate. We had a guest lecturer come to talk about business. The one thing I remember him telling me, is not to go to important business meetings under the influence of drugs, or alcohol.  At the time it really didn’t seem all that important. I do follow this advice, even though I am the beer painter, I haven’t ever shown up drunk or high to meetings, even though the stress of waiting for some meetings made me wish I could.  I can only imagine how badly meetings could have gone if I wasn’t at my best when I have been put on the spot.

In sculpture class I got similar advice from the professor about working in the sculpture lab.  He was adamantly against using drugs, or alcohol when making sculptures. He said if he caught any of his students under the influence in the lab, he would fail us, and not let us back into his classes. He said for one, it is unsafe, like driving a car, power tools are dangerous.  And secondly, even if you aren’t using power tools, you can screw up your piece of art. He said from experience, one day he had been drinking and just wanted to get a little work done later that evening. He ended up screwing up the sculpture, and wasting many previous hours of work.  I found this to be true when Maria and I were building our log cabin. Right away, I learned to stay 100% sober when building with logs. I wasn’t using a chainsaw, or even sharp tools, but after I made a notch with a handsaw backwards when I had been just a touch under the influence of cannabis, I never did that again.  Logs are expensive, and even worse, getting hurt in the backwoods can be very very expensive, or even fatal.  So don’t work high, or drunk.  At least then, if you do make an error, you can’t blame alcohol or weed for the mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, it is better not to make them in the first place.  This is the final bit of advice I will share with you, that was imparted by a professor.  I was in the painting studio working on the biggest painting of my life at that point, and I asked the professor what she thought about how it was going, and if I could get any advice.  She turned to me and said, “Scott, I like what you have going on here, don’t f*ck it up!” I laughed at the moment she said it, but it also made me realize that it’s always good to stop and think about what you are doing.  Screwing up is easy, and you can do it without realizing what is even happening. Work slower, more methodically, and more deliberately, and hopefully that will help prevent screwups.     

So, to summarize, it’s all about showing up, don’t do drugs before doing any kind of work, and when you’re doing well on a project, don’t f*ck it up.

From Hating Baseball to Liking It

Here in Anchorage, Alaska school was canceled today, on November 3rd, because we got about four inches of snow on the ground. I find this a bit startling, because when I was growing up here, school wouldn’t be cancelled, unless there were over 11″ on the ground, with another 6″ or 7″ more on the way. I blame the new Anchorage School District Superintendent, Dr. Jharrett Bryantt, who recently moved here from Houston.  Not used to Anchorage winter, and I think he possibly celebrated a bit too much after the Astros pitched a combined no-hitter in game 3 of the World Series last night.  

All kidding aside, I’m not here to talk about Anchorage’s weather, even though it is probably the most beautiful day since last March.  I am here to talk a bit about baseball.  You may not know, but Clendaniels are crazy about baseball.  My brother has been the coach at Anchorage West High for three years, and the president of Anchorage West little league program for two years.  My niece, Athena Clendaniel, was the captain of the varsity baseball team her senior year in high school, and threw the first pitch at a Dodgers game in 2018 for the MLB girls Trailblazer program. My dad was always the coach for my brother’s and my teams in little league, and even my sisters had to play t-ball. My grandfather, Frank Clendaniel, loved baseball.  Grandma was trying to save money, but grandpa went down and signed up all four of his boys for little league.  The game Strat O’ Matic baseball predated video game baseball and all four of the Clendaniel brothers (my dad and uncles) played it vigorously. They spent every day at the park playing baseball with their friends. They collected baseball cards, putting the eyes out with ball point pens when their favorite players played badly. My dad’s Hank Aaron rookie card isn’t in mint condition, because of a bad series of games one year.  

My brother loves baseball, but I never really did growing up.  I remember being forced into it at an early age. About five years old and crying to mom that I just got hit in the face by a hardball.  My dad said, “Thank the ball for toughening up your hand,” when it stung in the glove. I didn’t mind t-ball so much, and coach pitch was alright, but when I hit the minors in little league, I really didn’t enjoy the game much.  My brother would trade me candy and cash to get me to play catch with him for 30 minutes.  My batting average in little league was .0 and I just didn’t want to pay attention out in left field where, if I wasn’t sitting on the bench, I was forced to stand.  I used to look for four leaf clovers in the grass. It’s no wonder I never caught a fly ball.  In 5th grade I still had to play baseball and I revolted by getting really sick. I had walking pneumonia, and ended up having to go on steroids to kick it. Truth was, I just didn’t want to play baseball, and I would rather be sick than go out and stand in left field.  If my dad loved baseball so much, why did I have this awful floppy glove that was 40 years old, and why were all the family’s baseball bats nailed back together, or held together with electrical tape? Fortunately I got out of baseball when I went to junior high. Baseball surrounded us, and of course the Mariners were destined to lose games.  Yeah, my parents are from Walla Walla, Washington, and really care if the Mariners win or lose. So, they are pretty much always unhappy during baseball season. 

Fast forward to 2005, and I moved into a sweet apartment building on 3rd and A St.  I wondered what the noise was that sounded like ghosts howling through the exhaust vent.  It turned out to be my lower neighbor screaming about the Mariners.  We became good friends with Dicker, and he invited us over for grilled salmon and to watch Mariners games. I like salmon, and Dicker grills it perfectly. Maria started to like baseball. I guess I learned some stuff about it when I was out in left field, because I was able to help teach her the rules of the game, when Dicker wasn’t explaining the finer points. We continued to visit Dicker for salmon and baseball for 15 years, until he moved to Washington. Our old condo apartment was close to Mulcahy Stadium, and we used to walk down there with Dicker to drink beers in the beer garden and watch the Anchorage Glacier Pilots play in the Alaska Baseball League.  Maria wanted to go to a MLB game, so she drug me to watch the Cubs play at Wrigley Field on a trip to Chicago.  We moved into this house a year ago, and Maria turned baseball on the TV and we grilled salmon. I don’t even care who wins, and I don’t really need to know the score or the inning, but for a guy who used to loathe the sport, I’ve turned into a fan. I like the noise of the game at this point more than anything. It reminds me of happy people around me. I feel like I am at home when I hear the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the chatter of the announcers.  

Maria’s first MLB game at Wrigley Field, Chicago, 2015

We have been watching the World Series, and the games have been pretty good.  I don’t really care who wins and I’m happy that the series is tied 2-2. At Dicker’s house, when we would go for dinner and games, I used to root for extra innings, because there would be more baseball, and more time hanging out with friends. The same is true about series games. If they tie up the series, then there are more games, and more salmon dinners to drink beer and hang with friends.  So, for a guy who used to hate baseball, I guess I have come around to loving the sport. Not because I participate in fantasy baseball, or even care who wins or loses, but I just like to feel like I am surrounded by fun times, and baseball brings me that.

I have been painting Christmas ornaments, and I just made one for the Phillies and for the Astros. I painted a baseball on the back of each one. The oil paint is drying, but they will be available at my Etsy shop very soon.

Drinking and Reviewing NA Beer during Sober October, Part 2

In my last blog post I explained why I’m currently drinking NA beers, and reviewed three that I had tried so far. So, today I’ll be reviewing the rest.

We are in week 3 of sober October, and I have to say that we’ve been pretty good. I didn’t have any beer at the Alaska Craft Brew Festival, but I did have some at the Great Northern Brewers Club meeting.  Why would I go to a beer festival when I’m not drinking? I had a booth at the event to sell my beer art. Anyway, I am back on track and have just over a week left, and intend to finish strong.  It’s been great — I feel good, physically, and about myself too. I always tell people if they slip up on a detox from drinking to take heart and get back on the wagon. Your body won’t even notice the day you cheated on your discipline, but going back to old, bad habits is definitely going to hit you in the liver.  

So, I left off last time talking about Non-Alcoholic, or NA beer options.  I went into La Bodega and bought some beers to review: Athletic Light, Bitburger 0.0, Weihenstephaner Non-Alcoholic, Athletic Upside Dawn Golden, and Samuel Adams Just the Haze Non-Alcoholic Hazy IPA. 

I can’t recommend the Athletic brand, all three I’ve tried have that bad flavor of cooked alcohol in the beer.  And same with the Bitburger 0.0.  I was surprised, as Germans love their NA beers, and I would have thought Bitburger would have come through for me. I wanted something crisp and clean, but the beer Bitburger offered can’t hold up to the alcohol removal process.  I wonder why more breweries even try to make a beer and then remove the alcohol. Why not just make a malt and hop flavored soda? It seems to me that a beer-flavored drink would be easier to make than removing the alcohol.  The Russians have been enjoying Kvas for hundreds of years, and it has very little alcohol to begin with. I actually like drinking carbonated fruit juice beverages like IZZE and Blue Monkey more than an NA beer.  I normally cut them with sparkling water to extend the goodness, and to tone down the super sweet flavor of straight juice. 

The NA beers I can recommend are the Weihenstephaner, and the Sam Adams Just the Haze.  Germany comes through with the Weihenstephaner, it is a hefeweizen style of brew and has that estery quality that a good German weissbier should have.  Hazy and golden yellow with an aroma of cloves and banana. The mouthfeel is full bodied like a hefe, and the flavor is just like the aroma. If you love German wheat beers and can’t drink alcohol, this NA beer is a good choice for you. 

The Sam Adams not only won Gold at GABF for NA beer this year, it is actually really good! Also hazy and yellow, this NA beer provides a nice aroma of clean aroma hops.  The mouthfeel is slightly more watery than I would have liked, but the flavor makes up for it. They must have an expensive machine for taking the alcohol out of the beer, because if I didn’t know any better, I would call it a session IPA.  And session you can, since it has less than .05% alcohol content.  You would have to drink 100 of them to have the same alcohol that is in a regular beer.

Cheers to your health, your mind and your body! 

Drinking and Reviewing NA Beer during Sober October

Today is day five of sober October, yeah I started a day late.  I’m doing well, and haven’t had a sip of alcohol since Saturday. The first time I took a whole month off from drinking was in 2012 in McCarthy, Alaska. There is an event at the Golden Saloon that happens at the end of every season called Last Man Standing, which is a party the bar throws for the whole town to get rid of all perishables, such as food, beer, soft drinks, and NA beer.  Everything is free! In 2012 the bar shut down later than usual, in mid-October, and so that was the first time I ever drank non-alcoholic beer. At the time, my options were St. Pauli Girl NA, and O’Doul’s. I tried both. The O’doul’s was alright, it had a bit of a sweet and sour, grainy flavor and not much hops, but I had a couple at the party.  The St. Pauli Girl NA was definitely worse. The owner had a hard time getting people to drink the NA beer, so he gave me a 12-pack to take to my cabin.  I drank one every night, until they were gone.

Today, I am in Anchorage, and I thought some NA beer might be kind of good. I wasn’t hankering for O’Doul’s, so instead I got a six-pack of Lagunitas IPNA.  I have been drinking one per night for the last five days, and I have to say it is better than O’doul’s, or St. Pauli Girl.  Today I went to La Bodega and bought a mix pack of other NA beers.  Let me tell you, the NA beer market has really expanded since 2012! I had heard that Athletic Brewing Co. made a decent NA beer, so I picked up a few of those, as well as a couple German options and a Sam Adams Hazy NA IPA. I will review both the Lagunitas IPNA and Athletic Brewing Company’s Run Wild IPA today. Next time I will give you a rundown on the other five.

Lagunitas IPNA smells great, just like a regular IPA. It tastes like watered-down beer, but has a pleasant IPA and malt flavor.  The beer is clear and light brown, and doesn’t retain any foam like a real IPA should.  To me it tastes like the brewers took a bottle of the Waldo’s Special Ale, poured it into a gallon of water, added some caramel coloring, then carbonated, and bottled it into 12 bottles.  Overall, I would consider buying it again. It is good, and possibly a decent alternative to real IPA when one is trying to stay away from alcohol.

Athletic Brewing Co’s Run Wild IPA has a copper color, and beautiful foam that stays around for a long time. The flavor is weird, not really like an IPA. It reminds me more of an O’Doul’s. It has a nice body to it, and the mouthfeel is spot on. The smell is grainy, and a bit like smelling malt extract straight from the barrel. It only has a hint of hops. There is a pronounced bitterness after the sour grainy flavor dissipates.  As it warms up, the weird sour grain flavor gets stronger. But, if you want to look like you are drinking IPA, it fits the bill perfectly.  And I would drink it again, especially during sober October.  

Next week I will review a few more of these beers, and let you know which one is the best. So far Lagunitas IPNA is the best NA beer I have had.  I know the Germans like to drink a bunch of NA beer, so maybe they make something decent. NA beer has got to be better for you than sugary sodas, and more tasty than drinking sparkling waters. 

Cheers to sober October!  I hope you are having a good time, whether participating, or not!    

Termination Dust

Termination dust on the Chugach mountains

Happy Fall Equinox! During our five-mile run this morning we marveled at the gorgeous termination dust on the Chugach mountains that arrived overnight. For those of you who are not up on Alaskan lingo, “termination dust” refers to the first dusting of snow on mountain tops, signaling the termination of summer. This means something to the beer drinking crowd of Anchorage.  When we see that first snow, we know that Midnight Sun Brewing is about to release Termination Dust Belgian Style Barley Wine.  It is only released when Lee Ellis, President of the brewery, sees snow on Flattop mountain.  Well, I looked up at Flattop today, and the snow stopped right above Flattop mountain.  So, I assumed the brewery would hold out, but to my surprise, I saw on social media that the release is happening today!  I have a bottle of this beer in my beer fridge from two years ago, so maybe it is time to drink that one as well, since it is Equinox, and I feel celebration in the air.

When Alaskans see termination dust, some take a big sigh of relief, and others start feeling depressed, depending on how one feels about the impending winter. I personally like winter more than summer, so I get very excited about longer nights, cozy evenings around a fire, movie nights without FOMO, football season, fat-biking, and most importantly, alpine ski season.  I love skiing, and I especially love skiing at Arctic Valley Ski Area!  I am a lifetime member of the Anchorage Ski club. Maria and I already bought our season passes, so seeing termination dust on the front range on Equinox makes me feel hopeful for a great upcoming ski season! I am certainly glad to live in Alaska! Now, I’m off to Midnight Sun Brewing to sample this year’s Termination Dust. Cheers!

Prints of this beer portrait are available at my Etsy shop